Brian Branum did something he shouldn’t have done, and quickly found himself apologizing to fishing partner Mike LaFleur for his transgression.
But what he did - wasn’t as bad as when he did it.
“Mike, I messed up and caught a big one during pre-fishing,” he told his partner.
The Sam Rayburn, Texas, angler, a design consultant for Rat-L-Trap and Santone lures, had just landed an 11-pound-plus largemouth on Feb. 20, one day before the Texas Team Trail Tournament got underway.
“We had one day to practice, and it was raining the whole time,” Branum said.
The anglers launched from the Six Mile boat launch on the Texas side and motored over to the front of Six Mile Creek, where they found other anglers throwing A-rigs.
Branum had a ½-ounce, L6 Lectric Shad Rat-L-Trap tied to 16-pound Sunline fluorocarbon, and was casting the setup on a 7-foot, 3-inch Falcon Cara rod with a Lew’s Super Duty reel.
“I spent the morning slow-reeling on an inside grass line in 6 feet of water,” he said. “The water temperatures were in the high 40s.
“At 11, I turned the reel twice and then thought I was hung up on something. When it moved I was thinking maybe a catfish.”
Branum said the fish pulled hard and got into some grass, but eventually freed itself from the foliage.
“It came up and made a boil in the water and charged through the grass again,” he said. “It finally made its way to deeper water.”
Branum was thinking he had possibly side-hooked the fish because of the strong pull.
“The fish went and tied itself around some wood,” he said. “I trolled up and lifted my rod tip around the stump to free it.
“I’m still thinking I’m going to need some help as I was pulling her in. Mike then walked to the side of the boat to get ready.”
Branum remembered thinking it could have been a 7-pounder since he had taken one earlier in practice, and he mentioned it to LaFleur.
“Here’s your 7-pound bass,” LaFleur said, as he placed the hawg on the deck after lipping her into the boat.
Branum found himself staring at what would be a tie for the largest bass he had ever taken in his life.
On an onboard Rapala digital scale, Branum’s lunker weighed 11.57 pounds.
“Four of the hooks were embedded in its mouth,” Branum said. “Since it was practice day, I decided not to take the fish into Toledo Tackle so we could continue to find more fish. We did take some quick photos, and I made some general measurements.
“All I could think was, ‘God bless the people here who released this fish so I could catch it again.’”
After the photo session, Branum released the bass in the same area it was caught.